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On Soulmates

A personal post.



When people speak of soulmates, they generally refer to romantic partners or best friends. The love I have for my husband is like nothing I have ever known, and the first time I met him I told everyone I knew that I had met the man I was going to marry. But my soulmate—the being I truly and wholly believe houses a piece of my soul within his own body—is only eight years old and twenty-three pounds. He has impossibly bushy eyebrows and a long, dignified beard that appears coppery red in the sunlight. He loves rolling around in the sand on the beach, sticking his head out the car window (as long as the speed is slower than 40 miles per hour), and snoring loudly with his head rested on my leg. He is a dog, and his name is Winston.


I first met Winston when he was a tiny puppy, just eight weeks old. I genuinely felt my world shift when I saw him. While my mother and sister urged me to check him over carefully to be sure he looked healthy before I brought him home, I stared right into his bright, iridescent brown eyes—my own eyes uncharacteristically teary—and said, “Hi, Winston.” I knew we were meant for each other. I didn’t care what may or may not be wrong with him (he was, in fact, perfectly healthy). We were destined to be together.


A week after bringing Winnie home, June 2015


Winston was the world’s naughtiest puppy. Even my undying love for him, with most of my memories completely hazy from the dense lenses of the rosiest-colored glasses on earth, cannot dispute that he was challenging. Every night, for months, he had accidents in his crate. Bleary eyed at one or two or three o’clock in the morning, I’d pick up his tiny, furry body to bring him downstairs for a soapy bath before completely washing his crate too. I’d try to go back to sleep while he cried and cried, inconsolable in spite of his mountains of fluffy blankets, a glowing nightlight, and the light sound of a looped Pandora station of classical lullabies for newborn babies. During the day, no amount of romping around outside, playing with the other dogs, chasing balls, playing tug-of-war, or practicing homework from puppy kindergarten seemed adequate to tire him out. He peed in his pen, tore curtains off the walls, and chewed his way through all my shoes. I cried, he cried. My mother told me he was more difficult to care for than me and my siblings were as babies. My heart still exploded with love and adoration for him.


I brought Winston home the summer before my third year as a high school history teacher. It was a challenging time in my life. I had only ever wanted to be a teacher, and the sheer exhaustion, burn-out, and lack of fulfillment I felt after just two years deeply concerned me. I was in difficult relationship. I was living back in my hometown, saving money by housesitting for a good friend of my mother’s. I am certain that part of the reason I bonded with Winston so quickly was because I needed his companionship desperately, but I know there was more to than that. We just understood each other. It defied logic and rational thinking about the relationship between animals and humans. I knew I sounded crazy when I tried to explain it to friends and family. But when we locked eyes, nothing was more clear to me. Eight years later, I stand by this.


That first year, Winston and I took countless walks around the neighborhood, watched endless hours of Grey’s Anatomy and Real Housewives together on the couch and in bed, and enjoyed cheesy scrambled eggs together on Sunday mornings. He sat on my lap, curled up in a little puppy swirl, while I sat at the kitchen table writing my applications to graduate school. I sobbed into his fur during a particularly low point in the winter, when my relationship was clearly crumbling and my work as a teacher had become almost impossible, certainly intolerable. We had gone out to western Massachusetts to visit my grandmother for the day, and I got pulled over on the way home for (allegedly) speeding. A week later, Winston was sitting next to me on the couch when I opened my email on my phone and found out that I had been accepted to my top choice PhD program. It felt like a chance for us to start a new life: new job, new city, new future.


Curled up in my lap at the kitchen table, August 2015


We moved to Washington, DC that summer. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I credit Winston with giving me the courage and the confidence to start over, moving somewhere where I didn’t know anyone, and embarking on a challenging, years-long journey to pursue a doctorate in history. I loved exploring the neighborhood with Winston, especially since people stopped us all the time to admire my beautiful boy: “You don’t see Scotties very often anymore, do you?” “I had a Scottish terrier as a kid! Wow, what a beautiful dog.” We visited the monuments—I took photos of him next to the statute of FDR and his beloved Scottie dog Fala—and my new grad school friends loved coming over to hang out with my cute and spunky and mischievous boy.


One of our many visits to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt monument in Washington, DC, September 2017


Winnie is incredibly discerning about people, and it is one of the things I love most about him (as a puppy, he even lifted his leg and deliberately peed on my ex-boyfriend). I was initially hesitant to introduce Winnie to my future husband Kyle, worried that these two beings I loved so much would not get on with each other. But Winnie intuitively knew that Kyle was right for me. He took to Kyle immediately. Winnie showered Kyle with all his favorite toys, sat on his lap to cuddle (something Winston rarely did with me past his puppyhood), and begged for one-on-one walks with Kyle. We felt like a little family from the very beginning.


One of my favorite photos of Kyle and Winston, taken on our descent from Ben A'an in Scotland, October 2020


When Kyle proposed to me a year later, he proposed to Winston first. He got down on a knee in front of Win, presenting him with a moose toy (one of our nicknames for Win is “Moosie”) and asked if he could be his dad. It was the sweetest moment, and the fact that Kyle knew this element would make for my perfect proposal meant everything to me.


There was never any debate over Winnie being in our wedding—it was a given. We had absolutely no interest in a traditional large wedding party. Instead, it was just our siblings, my husband’s best friend, my grandmother, and Winston. As our ring bearer, Winston wore a boutonniere that matched Kyle’s and carried our wedding rings down the aisle for us. I think his greatest disappointment was being brought home by his chaperone after the ceremony, as he was certainly under the impression that the whole affair was in his honor anyway.


Winnie stealing the show as ring bearer on our wedding day, June 2019


A few months later, in the throes of the pandemic, we moved to the UK. It was the start of an epic adventure for our family, made all the better by the reality that Winston could come almost everywhere with us because most places were dog friendly. The three of us hiked through forests and moors in Yorkshire, traversed the coastal paths of Cornwall, explored waterfalls in the Lake District, climbed a mountains in Wales and the Peak District, visited castles and abbeys, stuffed ourselves with Sunday roast in pubs and restaurants all over the country, and visited Winston’s ancestral homeland in Scotland several times.


Snowdonia, Wales, June 2021


In the quieter times, Winston was my faithful co-worker as I conducted my work entirely remotely for three years. During the long, sometimes seemingly endless, days of dissertation writing, Winnie slept soundly in my office right next to me. He’d watch me use the Peloton during writing breaks, accompany me for walks around the grassy Stray, indulge in afternoon ice cream with me at Valley Gardens, and then take up his important post as sous-chef when it came time to make dinner. We spent all day, every day together. Just the two of us.


After years of entertaining the idea of bringing another dog into our lives, sweet Clementine came home with us in January 2023. We had agonized over the decision, desperately hoping Winston would love having a companion. There was no way to be sure until we brought little Clemmie home. Winston, who certainly does not like all dogs, was gentle, kind, and patient with our new addition. Clementine relentlessly pursued Winston’s attention, jumping on him, wrestling him, nibbling his ears and tail with sharp puppy teeth, and playfully barking at him to chase her. Win, who normally isn’t very patient or tolerant (just like his mum), never snapped at Clem. He played with her, gently wrestled with her, participated in nighttime zoomie sessions around the house with her, and even began cuddling with her. They’ve since become inseparable, often choosing to lay right next to each other, even when the rest of their house is at their disposal. Witnessing the growth of their bond has been one of the most special things Kyle and I have experienced in our lives.


Win and Clem cuddling in the car, July 2023


When I received Winston’s cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2023, I felt like the ground had opened up beneath me and I was free falling into some sort of excruciating oblivion. I knew Winston and I had a limited time together on this earth, and I had savored every single second of it (even his rough puppy days), but I never imagined or entertained the idea that his life would be cut short. In the months since, grappling with an impending loss that often still seems wholly unbelievable and unreal, I have thought deeply about Winston means to me.


In my heart, I have always known Winston is my soulmate. There are few people I say this aloud to, because I know, for many people, that statement seems strange and melodramatic at best, unhinged at worst. Much to the chagrin of everyone who has ever had a human child, I have referred to him as my “baby” or my “child,” but I understand that he is not—I don’t think most people look to their human children as their primary source of friendship, guidance, and comfort. That’s what Winston is to me. We mirror each other’s emotions and feelings—his pain is mine, my joy is his, and vice versa. I believe that sincerely and know it to be true. When I'm with him, I am home.


When Winston goes, he takes a piece of my soul with him. It won’t regenerate. That piece is his forever.


I wouldn’t have it any other way.



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Chloe Gunther
Chloe Gunther
Nov 27, 2023

❤️

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Guest
Nov 21, 2023

Perfectly spoken as always. Soulmates can come in so many forms and recognising yours is an incredible feat! ❤️❤️❤️

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❤️

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Guest
Nov 21, 2023

Im in bits!❤️‍🩹

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❤️

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Guest
Nov 21, 2023

What a lovely tribute! Hope Win will be with you for a long time. When his time comes make sure you hold him when he goes over the rainbow bridge, I did it with Angus and never regretted it. Sad but beautiful just the two of us ❤️

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Thank you ❤️

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